The Alaska Legislature has adjourned its regular session for the year after the Senate approved a federal funding package Wednesday.
The funding approved is $1.25 billion from the federal government, distributed to Alaska through Congress' CARES Act approved earlier this year and designed to help ease financial struggles caused by COVID-19.
A distribution plan for the funding was already devised by Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his commissioners earlier this month and transferred to the Legislature Budget and Audit Committee, a panel tasked with approving appropriations outside the state budgets.
Approval of the plan was delayed when some committee members voiced concerns that the funding must be ratified by the Legislature. This same concern was noted in a lawsuit filed last week by a Juneau resident who alleged the same –– that the funding required the stamp of approval from the entire Legislature.
The legislative bill meant to ratify the previously crafted distribution plan includes more than $568 million in individual distributions for municipalities. The Fairbanks North Star Borough and the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole are set to receive a total of $44.4 million.
Other funding areas include $100 million for fisheries, $45 million for K-12 schools affected by the pandemic, $5 million in financial aid for University of Alaska students, $29 million for the Alaska Marine Highway System and other rural transportation needs, $290 million for small business relief grants and $10 million to the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. to address homelessness around the state.
The House passed the bill Tuesday, adjourning sine die directly after. With the House adjourning before the Senate could vote to ratify the funding, the Senate was left to vote on the House's version of the bill the next morning.
House members quickly began leaving the Capitol and traveling home soon after voting Tuesday, and it seems that there isn't a plan to return to Juneau any time soon.
There is still a chance the Legislature could go back into a special session within the next several months, according to Senate Rules Chair John Coghill, R-North Pole.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.